HU Employee Spotlight: Ryan Heman
At Humanity United, we are proud to work with a talented and dedicated team that brings curiosity, empathy and creativity to our commitment to create a world with greater peace and dignity.
Each month, we will highlight one of our team members and invite you to meet the individuals that make so much of our work possible.
Name & position?
Ryan Heman, Investments Manager
Have you had any unusual pets?
I grew up in a family that always had more animals than humans—typical pets like cats and dogs of course, but also things like lizards and mice—and spent my teenage years volunteering in humane societies with a whole slew of creatures. One summer in undergrad I ended up becoming a temporary rehabber for a baby squirrel, which was probably the cutest (and most demanding) of the animals I’ve ever cared for. I was lucky to have friends in the vet school who guided me on nutrition and feeding. Together, we named him Chip and released him that fall to a tree on campus.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
Grad school presented a mixed bag of good and bad books, but one in particular that (unexpectedly) stood out to me dealt with haptic philosophy—Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media, by Laura Marks. I find myself returning to or referencing this specific quote often:
“If every object and event is irreducible in its materiality, then part of learning to touch it is to come to love its particularity, its strangeness, its precious and inimitable place in the world. I don’t believe in the alterity or ultimate unknowability of other things, people, and times. We all live on the same surface, the same skin. If others are unfathomable, it is because it takes an infinite number of folds to really reach them. Part of materialism, then, is celebrating the uniqueness of the other. Things, people, and moments pass, they age and die and can never be duplicated; so materialism’s close corollary is cherishing.”
What do you do for fun?
I spend a lot of my free time trying to get away from the city, which luckily California allows for pretty much any season. If I’m not at work, I’m likely to be on a mountain or somewhere in the woods.
What was your first job?
My early childhood I spent helping my mom clean houses for a range of people and cages at veterinary clinics—though, admittedly, those were not precisely “jobs”. My first real paid employment was in middle school at a koi farm where we sold ornamental fish along with artificial pond supplies and aquatic or marsh plants. I ended up spending all the money I earned building my own koi pond and waterfall in my backyard.
What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
I was lucky during undergrad to have the opportunity to live and study in London for a year, which provided a lot more opportunity for travel. My favorite trip was spending about 2.5 weeks in Morocco. A friend and I took the ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, and after that traveled on trains all throughout Morocco to see Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakesh, Fes, Meknes, and a few smaller villages—staying in all the medinas and living on fresh squeezed orange juice and tagine. It was all great until the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, shutting down air travel throughout Europe and forcing us to backtrack to London via ferry and a 33 hour bus ride. An adventure, nonetheless.
Favorite travel location?
Out of everywhere I’ve been in the world, there’s a specific fallen tree in Emerald Bay, South Lake Tahoe that’s probably my favorite spot. It requires some kayaking to get there, but it’s worth the trip for the view and the fresh air.
Favorite food indulgence?
I have a famous weakness for burritos and dare you to eat one faster. It’s my goal to try every taqueria in the Bay Area.
What is something about you that may surprise others?
I was born nearly deaf and my earliest education was in a mixed half-deaf/half-hearing school where I had to learn how to speak after my hearing was restored. I still to this day constantly remind myself to enunciate.
What inspires you?
My sister and I were raised by a single mother who was a homeless teenage runaway but through hard work and nearly two decades of night school went from getting her GED to retiring recently after a career as a brain and heart surgeon. I’ve always been drawn to human rights as a field because of the example of resilience she set for me: every person in this world should have the opportunity to defeat the odds and reach their full potential.